System thinking, problem solving as learning (Checkland, 1981)

Regarded as a whole, the soft systems methodology is a learning system which uses systems ideas to formulate basic mental acts of four kinds: perceiving (stages 1 and 2), predicating (stages 3 and 4), comparing (stage 5), and deciding on action (stage 6). The output of the methodology is thus very different from the output of hard systems engineering: it is learning which leads to a decision to take certain actions, knowing that this will lead not to “the problem” being now “solved” but to a changed situation and new learning …

Overall, the stages of the methodology for work on ill-defined problems (which do not have to be followed in fixed sequence) constitute a learning system, a system which finds things out in a situation which at last one person regards as problematic. For ill-structured problems involving a number of people the very idea of “a problem” which can be “solved” has to be replaced by the idea of dialectical debate, by the idea of problem-solvlng as a continuous, never-ending process.

(Checkland, 1981, p. 17)


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